Among modern-day boxers, Arturo Gatti defined toughness. His refusal to quit, when all the signals would've had a lesser man waving the white flag, had boxing fans shaking their head in amazement time and again while he practiced his brand of the savage science from 1999-2007.
Gatti, who basically started bleeding and swelling during the national anthem, retired in 2007, after making a Hall of Fame-type impression on the game, not because of his technical excellence but mainly because of his willingness to battle on when 99.9 percent of men would cave to the inevitable.
So the news that the 37-year-old Gatti committed suicide, in July of 2009, was met with bewilderment in the fight game. It didn't fit. This was a man who didn't succumb to slings and arrows, didn't allow himself to even entertain the notion of quitting.
The New Jersey-based Gatti was found by authorities, dead, on July 11, 2009, at a seaside resort in Brazil.
The local cops said he hanged himself, with a purse strap, which he fashioned around a wooden staircase column.
So wait ... this guy who didn't show any inclination to quit in the ring, who apparently hadn't according to friends and family shown any signs of emotional distress let alone suicidal ideation, killed himself?
His friend, and manager, Patrick Lynch sure as hell didn't think so. Neither did the Brazilian cops, initially, but a few weeks after the body was found, they switched their stance on the case from potential homicide to suicide.
"I knew from the beginning Arturo didn't commit suicide," Lynch told me. "Why'd I go forward and hire some of the best investigators and experts in the world to find the truth? To clear his name. To tell his children (Sophia, age 5, and Arturo Jr., age 3) that he never quit on them."
Gatti's wife, Brazilian Amanda Rodrigues, found his body, and suspicion centered on her. They'd had a physical altercation the night of July 10, seen by witnesses. It emerged that Gatti had recently tweaked his will, and that if he died, his estate (over $6 million worth) would go to her.
Lynch told me he was happy to learn Thursday morning that authorities in Brazil announced that they're taking another look at the circumstances of the Gatti death, and will consider if it was homicide, not suicide.
Private investigator Paul Ciolino told ESPN New York he is pretty certain, 9.5 on a scale of 1 to 10, that Gatti was murdered. The Chicago-based PI, who was hired by Lynch along with Boston-based partner Joseph Moura, talked to more than 75 people over 10 months, said there's always a sliver of doubt if there's no video, or confession.
"Unequivocally, this was a homicide," said Ciolino, who has been on the beat since 1981.
Of course, Rodrigues denies she had a hand in Gatti's death. Lynch says he's "not pointing any fingers. I just want the person or persons who murdered Arturo brought to justice."
So, is Ciolino confident the Brazilians will set the record straight?
"It's possible, but no matter what country you're in, police hate to admit they made a mistake."
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